Memory Monday-It’s a thing…
Ah…the holidays are over and we are settling into winter. The chilly temperatures and short days keep most people inside. The hottest news story on the local news is the weather report. Overall, it doesn’t seem as if we get a lot of snow in this area anymore. Still, what little snow we get is enough to shut down schools and make the daily commute dangerous for most people.
During the winter months, kids get excited when they hear the most wonderful two words ever spoken: Snow Day. To parents, these are two of the most foul, obscene words ever uttered. It’s about perspective. Where I grew up, a Snow Days wasn’t always great. Being so far out in the country, heavy snows often caused power outages and the power company couldn’t get out to where we lived to do repairs until the roads cleared.
I remember one heavy snow when I was in high school. I don’t remember how many days I was out of school because of the weather, but it seemed like forever. Granny and I were the only two people living at the house by this time. The house was heated by gas heat, but the pump wasn’t the most reliable and we used kerosene heaters as back ups. A blanket hung over the doorway between the kitchen and the living room acted as a door to help keep the back half of the house warm. With the electricity out, we spent little time in the living room and it made sense to block it off from the rest of the house. Taking a bath meant heating water on the stove in large kettles to fill the tub and it was impossible to heat up enough water for a good, soaking bath. At night, we left the water running in the kitchen and bathroom faucets to keep the pipes from freezing and the drip of the water used to drive me crazy.
We passed the hours reading books, working jigsaw puzzles, or working in word puzzle books. We listened to the radio for short periods at a time, mostly for news updates, to preserve our batteries while the power was out. During the day, Mom tried to visit us as much as she could since she lived close enough to walk to our house.
Everyone thinks it’s great when the temperature rises and the snow starts to melt. Most of the time it is a good thing. However, the house I grew up in was prone to flooding. That year, as the temperature warmed, the rain started as well. We watched as the water in the branch beside the house and the water from the creek overflowed their banks and merged into one large body water effectively cutting us off from the road.
Granny watched the water most of the night and around noon the next day the water was covering over half our yard. The house sat atop a small slope which helped, but it was still the worst flooding I remember while I lived there. We could still get out the back door and we had a clear path through the garden and hayfield behind the house. There were two more houses behind ours and both were empty, one of which belonged to my Aunt Bessie before she passed away.
Granny said words I had never heard: “We’ve got to get what we can up off the floor and head to to Bessie’s.” Bessie’s house was farther away from the creek and the flood waters from the branch rarely posed as much of a threat to her house as it did ours.
Nobody lived in Bessie’s house meaning I had to get the kerosene heater up to the house somehow. The heater was too heavy and Bessie’s old house was too far for me to carry the heater alone and Granny couldn’t help. Granny finished a round of chemotherapy a few weeks earlier that left her weak. As I thought about how to get the heavy heater to the other house, I remembered my younger sister had a little red wagon we kept at Granny’s house. Granny and I got the heater out the back door, off the porch, and loaded onto the wagon. Of course the base of the heater was larger than the wagon so I had to hold it with one hand and pull the wagon with the other. Granny stayed at our house to move pictures and other small items to the bedrooms upstairs.
Normally, the walk between Granny’s and Bessie’s took less than five minutes. That day, walking in the rain, in sub-forty degree weather, while pulling a heavy heater on a kiddie wagon through a lumpy, bumpy garden and hayfield, it took close to a half hour. Once I got to Bessie’s house, I still had to lug the heater up the steps and into her house by myself.
Once I got back home, I went inside to help Granny finish putting things up and I see a couple boxes of food sitting on the table. Tears stung my eyes. I would need to haul those boxes up to the other house on the little red wagon as well. I was so focused on the heater, it didn’t occur to me we would need other supplies like food and water. Thankfully, Granny was smart enough to remember those things. I put the second load on the wagon and headed back to Bessie’s. The food trip was a little easier because the boxes weren’t as heavy. It was still cold and still drizzling rain.
By the time I made the round trip trek a second time, I was soaked from head to toe. I walked into my house and Granny was sitting at the kitchen table reading as if nothing was happening.
“Granny, are you ready? Is there anything else I need to take up there on the wagon?”
“No. It looks like the water is going down and the rain has stopped. I think we can stay here. You gotta go get our stuff, mice will eat the food and if the gas goes off, we’ll need that heater.”
Granny was not the type of woman you argued with and she was not the type you complained to about anything. If she said do something, you did it. Simple as that. I knew I had to go get everything I just took up to Bessie’s house. My school backpack sat in a kitchen chair and sparked an idea. I emptied the backpack to take with me so I could put some of the food in it. What wouldn’t fit in the bag, I arranged around the heater after I set it on the wagon. I made it back down the holler* to Granny’s in one trip with everything. That was the coldest, wettest, tiredest I ever remember being.
*Holler is local lingo for hollow.